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do beets HAVE to taste like dirt?

 
gardener
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My wife boils them but adds a sauce-yogurt or sour cream. It's pretty good.
John S
PDX OR
 
gardener
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I've found that if you absolutely char the beats on a fire by dropping them into the coals and cook them for at least 45 minutes or so, they lose all that earthiness.  Yes, you end up with a blackened hunk of beet that you have to cut away all the char, but they are sweet and smoky and lovely.  

So whenever I'm burning scrap wood or making biochar, I always toss a few beets down into the coals.  It's good to have really large beets for this, or there isn't much left once you're done cutting away the black burnt exterior.  Then I serve them with a little bit of garlic salt and balsamic vinegar.  Lovely.

And the chickens LOVE beets.  They quickly eat the greens, and then they'll spend the day pecking away at the beet.  I grow extra just for them.
 
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In fairness, I like the taste of dirt.
I’ve always had good luck roasting beets in olive oil. Sliced, tossed in oil and grilled is quite excellent too. Both ways, they taste super sweet to me.

I had never succeeded at growing beets until this year. Planted a variety called cylindra that looks more like a fat, wonky carrot than a normal beet. Got a beautiful, heavy harvest and probably the tastiest beets I have ever had! Incredibly tender and mild enough to eat raw. The greens were delicious and mild too. All the more impressive since the spot we grew them on was heavy clay and the site of a large, long burning fire which we had hoped would kill the Japanese knotweed which was growing there (it didn’t, pretty sure it laughed at us). All to say, might be a good one to try for someone having limited success with the beets and/or doesn’t love the earthy taste.
 
gardener
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i have found that roasting anything makes it taste better!
before I knew how to cook (in college) I used to wrap them in foil with sesame oil, salt, and garlic powder) and cook them in the fire or in an oven someone else had on for hours and hours. Good stuff.
Today, I like the "russian salad" type beets- grate or spiralize, mix with some sort of cream (mayo, generally) and some pressed raw garlic, maybe some dill and some lemon juice, salt. Walnuts too if you like. Ridiculously flavorful and dirt is not the first taste you're going to get.
We make a lot of cabbage/beet soup. fry up a little bacon first, and then 2 beets and half a small cabbage makes a whole pot (a week of lunches for me). Again, pretty flavorful.
 
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I grow golden beets and ferment them with ginger and garlic. The sweetness comes out and the juice turns a lovely warm yellow color. Normally beets just taste like dirt to me, too.
 
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I agree golden beets have a clean sweet flavor
 
master pollinator
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Odd. I have never encountered the problem.  I often eat them raw. But my favorite use in in Borscht.   I plant as many beets as I do carrots .  I imagine the make up of the soil has a great deal to do with it.
 
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You're supposed to wash them! Haahaha
I love beets!
 
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Personally, enjoy beats a lot. Chiogga especially. Really good cooked, cut small and in pasta. Little bit of cream if that's your thing.

Enjoy them pickled as well, though haven't gotten around to doing myself.
 
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I love the earthy taste of beets, perhaps try them pickled? I find they are much less ‘earthy’ tasting pickled.
 
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Golden beet salad makes for a rather palatable meal when you have little produce in the garden you can use dried white beans. It if you have green beans that works too

Golden beets roasted in 2 parts olive oil 1 part bacon fat in a Dutch oven

Add your beans of choice
Add some red onion
Some of last years pumpkin seeds you were going to plant but then roasted instead
Apple cider vinegar and orange juice to make a little dressing and throw that on top of some chopped basil and mint salad

The beets still taste like first but you'll never know it
 
pollinator
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Location: Clemson, SC ("new" Zone 8a)
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A lot of different opinions and theories in this thread!  I am sure that different soils do impart different flavors to crops.  I can also attest that some beats really do have subtly different flavors than others, which I assume to be a trait independent of where they're grown.  I really love golden beets, which I think have a milder flavor, though I admit my dedication to golden beets is more due to the fact they don't turn my hands, clothes, cutting board, and generally everything else purple during the processing! And the striped chioggia beets really are super sweet, as advertised.

I suspect, though, that the widely varying perception of beets might partly also be a symptom of the reality that not all humans taste the same way (just ask any cannibal, LOL!).  It isn't just a matter of opinion or individual preference; it is a well-established phenomenon that some people's taste buds are highly sensitive to certain chemical compounds that other people are either only slightly sensitive to or else completely blind to.  I have experienced it myself.  If this is the case with "dirty tasting" beets, then I suspect that nothing is going to much improve the situation for those who are biologically pre-disposed to sense whatever compound(s) beets contain that are the culprit.

Too bad for them, because I love beets!  And they're very good for you.  As I wrote above, I'd recommend trying different varieties, especially golden, that to me taste the least earthy.  But then again, I don't feel that ANY beets taste particularly of "dirt," so it's possible that my own perceptions and advice just aren't applicable to those people who do taste them that way.

Or just focus on the beet greens, which are also super yummy, and give the roots away or to the pigs and chickens.  Beet greens are a treat, with a delicate but distinct flavor extremely similar to Swiss chard (which is, after all, just a variety of beet bred for the tops instead of the roots).  I've seen lots of good recipes for beet greens, but usually like to keep it simple: sauteed in butter and served with a dash of salt and a squirt of lemon.  A good tip is to separate the larger stems from the greens when chopping them up, so that the stems can go into the pan first, as they take longer to cook; then add the greens at the end for just long enough to wilt them.

Okay, warning, tangent ahead:

Though I like to cook with golden beets and shred them raw on my salads, because they don't stain me, when brewing beet kvass I enjoy using dark red beets, because the resulting blood-colored drink just seems more fun to me than any lighter colored ferment would ; )  But kvass can sometimes be a bit too intensely beet tasting ...I shy away from saying "tastes like dirt," but I can almost see why some would think so.  I've arrived at brewing "hybrid kvass" instead, which is a tip I read online somewhere.  If my crock of kvass starts with, say, two large beets, then I also add a quarter head of shredded cabbage and half an onion in thin slices.  It isn't a precise recipe, but you should end up with maybe an equal volume of beet chunks and cabbage/onion slaw.  The resulting ferment has a taste much like kvass, but also sort of like kraut juice.  I find it quite appealing!  In particular, I crave it when I'm hungry but putting off a meal for a while longer; it just seems more hunger-satisfying than any drink should, probably because it's so salty.

A couple more beet kvass tips, tricks, and cheats...

1) If your kvass tastes a little weak, punch it up by slicing a garlic clove and soaking it either in the initial ferment or in the bottled drink.  But go easy!  It takes only a little garlic to turn the whole batch of kvass very distinctly garlicky tasting.

2) In my most recent batch, I washed the whole beats lightly in cold water before cutting them up, but did NOT peel them.  I figured the bacteria living on the skin could only help accelerate the fermentation.  And the end product was first-rate kvass, so I guess it worked.  Certainly didn't hurt any.

3) You can totally get a second soak out of your kvass solids.  After 3-5 days of fermentation, drain the kvass and refill the crock of solids with more distilled water and a little more salt (maybe half what you used on the first soak).  Give it another 3-5 days.  But beware that your second soak won't be as strong-tasting as the first.  I like to hold the first batch of kvass in the fridge, then mix it with the second, and bottle the result in order to even out the different intensities of the two soaks.  In my experience, a third soak ends up too weak to bother with.

4) Reuse those spent kvass solids!  Whether using pure beets or a hybrid mix as described above, I will save the drained solids when I'm done, grate the beet chunks, and incorporate the lot into my next batch of sauerkraut.  Bonus: depending on the color of your cabbage, the ratio of kvass-solids-to-cabbage you use, and how well drained those kvass beets were (one soak or two or three), you might just end up with neon pink sauerkraut.  I did once.  And who wouldn't want that?!  : )
 
pollinator
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This might sound overly romantic. My coworkers and think they taste the same way rain smells.
 
pollinator
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One of the best takeout sandwiches I’ve had was a marinated (and roasted I think) slice of beet in place of a burger from Jose Andres Beefsteak vegetarian restaurant. I haven’t found the recipe, but it is generally outlined below...

BEETsteak Burger, a thick slice of beet that’s marinated in apple cider vinegar, herbs, and black peppercorns. It’s served on a fluffy olive oil brioche with a spread of vegan chipotle mayo, and is piled high with tangy pickled red onion, alfalfa sprouts, and a crunchy lettuce mix. Altogether it’s a vitamin-packed masterpiece, full of sweet, tangy, and savory flavors. The marinated beets also make a great side salad. Here’s the recipe for Beefsteak’s marinated beets, served as a salad. The recipe is highly customizable, so feel free to experiment and add fresh herbs, nuts, goat cheese, or anything else you want!

 
James Whitelaw
pollinator
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This is the marinated beet salad recipe referenced above.
 
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Hmm! No "dirt" taste to my beets. Steamed with butter is SOP around here. Ambrosia!

Although my process may be different: I hill them aggressively in the fall and leave them to experience a few good frosts. As a result they are sweet and tasty. (Same process applies to carrots.)
 
Douglas Alpenstock
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Just checked with DW. "Detroit Dark Red" is our preferred grow.

And we will grow many more this year, if we can find seed, and all things will be lovely!
 
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I LOVE beets! Might be a cultural preference. I love all root veg. Winters gets me all excited for all manner of root crops, like beets and swedes. My other half  gets this deplorable look every time he sees one of those big monsters show up on the countertop, haha.

Beets do not all taste the same. In my experience, the lighter the beet, the sweeter they get (up until you get sugar beets, which is what my grandfathers family farmed back in Cork.)

I love my cylindras. I feel like its maximum beet for the same space, since they grow nice and long like a big potato, lol.  I feel they have a classic beet taste. To me its not a taste like dirt, but it is an earthy  flavour. Last year I grew golden beets and choggias as well. The goldens tasted like a mild and sweeter version of the cylindras, and the choggias were somewhere between. Growing the choggias again this year, but not the goldens.

I find roasting beets brings out a lot of natural sweetness, and the goldens basically turned into candy lol. We ended up esting most of those sliced and dressed raw in salads, they were very sweet.  The choggias, to me, taste milder than other red beets, but not as sweet as those yellows. The striped interior is really something to look at, so those will all be my raw sliced salad beets this year.
 
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